While there are still more than 1,000 Canadian Forces members currently in Kandahar working to pack up and ship home five years worth of war-fighting equipment, there is no doubt that the combat mission is now over.
And what a difficult mission it was. In 2006, a Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team and a Battle Group — based around one battalion of infantry — was directed to bring order and stability to Kandahar Province, the 54,022 square kilometre birthplace of the Taliban, home of nearly a million people. By late 2010, the same Battle Group had been re-enforced in their mission by thousands of American soldiers and now the Canadian area-of-operations was a mere fraction of what it was before — primarily just the eastern portion of Panjwaii district, and still the going was incredibly tough.
To understand why the mission was so difficult, watch this video. The short film was produced by the Army itself (to its great credit, in fact), and in particular by a Canadian Forces reservist named Mike Vernon, a former CBC reporter, who I had the good fortune to meet in Kandahar in 2010. Vernon, a lieutenant-colonel in full uniform, told me he was going to go out to Panjwaii and make a documentary about the realities of the mission.
It seemed to me quite unlikely that he would succeed.
I was wrong.
And his documentary is required viewing for anyone who wants to glimpse what life was like on the ground for Canadians in Panjwaii.